Alice Deal Middle School celebrates is 90th anniversary

Alice Deal died in 1928 at the age of 50. Three years later, the city decided to name its newest junior high, at Nebraska Avenue and Reno Road NW, after the Maryland-born educator. A portrait of Deal was unveiled in 1932, prompting Stephen E. Kramer, first assistant superintendent of schools, to say that Deal was being remembered “not so much to honor her as to again bring up before us by the necromancy of fond memory the spiritual presence of a friend and leader.”

It’s not every day you encounter the phrase “by the necromancy of fond memory,” so good for Mr. Kramer.

When Deal opened, the city was segregated, and the school was for White students only. Today, it’s a desirable school for anyone to attend, not that many students have actually been attending it this year. The pandemic has also made it hard to have an anniversary event, said Cassandra Hetherington, mother of a Deal seventh-grader.

Usually, there’s an annual in-person fundraiser. “This year we decided to have an interactive fundraising component,” said Cassandra, who serves on the board of the Alice Deal Community Association, which is sort of like a PTA.

The gala will be online. People who attended Deal are invited to send photos from their student days or a video sharing a memory of the school. The list of alumni includes such figures as D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), film director Merawi Gerima and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Cassandra said the organizers have already received a video from Warren Buffett the Money Guy, who’s done pretty well since attending Deal.

If you’re a Deal graduate and want to submit a video or attend the trivia night, send an email to [email protected].

It’s a tough time to be a Deal student, a Deal parent or a Deal teacher.

“We’ve got a whole group of families and kids who have never even been inside the building,” Cassandra told me a couple of weeks ago, before D.C. public schools started reopening. “The sixth-graders don’t know other kids, they don’t know other parents. People are starved for that sense of connection and community.”

Cassandra credits Deal’s principal, Diedre L. Neal, with keeping school spirits up.

“She has been nothing but reassuring,” Cassandra said. “She projects an air of being calm and relaxed.”

The theme of the Feb. 27 event is “We Are Alice Deal.” And now you know who Alice Deal was.

Virtual gala

Schools, reunion committees and nonprofits are all wrestling with how to fundraise during a pandemic. In December, I hosted a virtual gala for City Wildlife, the organization that rehabilitates injured wildlife in the District.

It was pretty slick. Most of it was prepared ahead of time. Sitting in my living room, I conducted interviews over Zoom with City Wildlife staffers, volunteers and other animal experts. These were recorded. A few weeks later, I went to City Wildlife’s headquarters off Blair Road NW and, wearing a mask, recorded some introductions, along with opening and closing remarks.

I even had the good fortune to be able to tag along when an owl that had recovered from an injury was released in Rock Creek Park. Video editor Tim Persinko stitched all of this together to resemble an evening’s worth of activities. People who bought tickets got a link to watch the event online. Later, the whole thing was put up on YouTube.

The humans at City Wildlife told me that they’re satisfied with the money that was raised. The costs for something like this are less than for renting event space. And by posting the 75-minute video online and making it public, they’re able to spread awareness of the organization’s work.

Picture this

“One reason people don’t keep family photos is that they often don’t know the identity of the people in the pictures,” wrote Linda, who has spent some of her pandemic downtime digitizing her father’s vast photograph collection.

“I urge your readers to interview their older family members and note down with precision the names of those portrayed and how they are related to the descendants. ‘Bob’ or ‘Aunt Susan’ are not good enough for future generations!”

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave a wrong middle initial for Alice Deal’s principal, Diedre L. Neal.